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Netflix vs Lovefilm

Streaming giants go head to head

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Quality

Picture quality is another big issue, and Netflix has plenty of content that’s billed as being in HD with 5.1 sound. The HD version of Armageddon certainly looks crisper than the standard definition alternative on Lovefilm, but – perhaps due to the use of Dolby Digital Plus – there was no sign of 5.1 audio via the HDMI-ARC connection back to my AV system.

Lovefilm doesn’t yet offer HD, though it says it's hoping to roll it out as more of its customers get decent broadband.

Netflix streaming service screenshot on Samsung

It’s worth noting that neither service looked quite as slick when watching on the Mac as it did on the TV. The opening time vortex on the Doctor Who TV movie via Lovefilm was tremendously blocky. Overall, I’d class Netflix as slightly above DVD quality, if you pick an HD film, and Lovefilm as slightly below. But remember, the content itself will have an impact. A 1976 Johnny Cash concert i’s never going to look as slick as more recent material.

Devices

Another consideration, of course, is whether or not you have a device that works with one of the services.

Netflix is available on some Samsung smart TVs, as well as the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, the Wii, and media players from Apple, Philips, Roku and Western Digital, plus Android and iOS, and some LG disc players.

Lovefilm streaming service screenshot on Samsung

Lovefilm is on some Samsung, Sony and Cello TVs, the Sony and Microsoft games consoles, the iPad, a Digital Stream IPTV box, and various other bits of Sony home entertainment kit.

It’s worth noting too that users of Linux and older Apple kit have been left out in the cold recently by Lovefilm’s switch to Microsoft's Silverlight from Adobe Flash. Netflix too uses the Silverlight plugin for PC and Mac viewing, so open source fans will likely have to opt for disc rentals rather than online viewing.

Netflix streaming service screenshot on Samsung

Netflix has HD and Dolby 5.1 options for some content

Making the choice

So, which should you go for? Ultimately, it will probably be the content that’s the decider for many. Of course, you could pick both, and still not be breaking the bank. My personal choice would be Netflix, thanks to the larger number of TV shows available. But for others, the extra content available on disc from Lovefilm will make it much better value. ®

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